- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The Guardian has the (non-WikiLeaked) scoop on an upcoming bombshell of a report by human rights investigators from the Council of Europe, which accuses Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of involvement in a criminal network involved with drug, weapons smuggling and even organ harvesting:
The report of the two-year inquiry, which cites FBI and other intelligence sources, has been obtained by the Guardian. It names Thaçi as having over the last decade exerted "violent control" over the heroin trade.
Figures from Thaçi’s inner circle are accused of secretly taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a few Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market.[..]
Dick Marty, the human rights investigator behind the inquiry, will present his report to European diplomats from all 47 member states at a meeting in Paris on Thursday.
His report suggests Thaçi’s links with organised crime date back more than a decade, when those loyal to his Drenica Group became the dominant faction within the KLA.
It says the group’s supremacy over splinter groups in the guerrilla movement enabled them, from 1998, to seize control of "most of the illicit criminal enterprises" in which Kosovans were involved south of the border, in Albania.[…]
Thaçi and four other members of the Drenica Group are named in the report as having carried out "assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations". This same hardline KLA faction has held considerable power in Kosovo’s government over the last decade, with the support of western powers keen to ensure stability in the fledgling state.
The organ harvesting charge was previously made by Hague Special Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who says she was prevented by political pressure from investigating KLA atrocities during the war. There’s also a currently ongoing trial of Kosovan doctors accused of running an organ smuggling ring. The links are still a little murky, but the new report is sure to reignite the charge:
It finds the KLA did hold mostly Serb captives in a secret network of six detention facilities in northern Albania.
Thaçi’s Drenica Group "bear the greatest responsibility" for the ad-hoc prisons and the fate of those held in them. They include a "handful" of prisoners said to have been transferred to a makeshift prison just north of Tirana, where they were killed for their kidneys.
The report states: "As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the ‘safe house’ individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.”
Thaci’s party came out ahead in Kosovo’s first post-independence parliamentary elections last weekend, but he’s still working to form a coalition and I’m guessing the macabre charges might complicate the situation somewhat.
Whether or not the most explosive accusations are substantiated — the inquiry report carries no legal weight on its own — reports of the Kosovo government’s links to organized crime are not new, even if they’ve never been so explicitly stated by a high-profile body. The full release of Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty’s report on Thursday should be eagerly anticipated in Belgrade and Moscow.